As the saying goes, “practice makes perfect,” and Fort Stewart soldiers have been working to meet that standard for months, culminating in an exercise known as Marne Focus.
Soldiers lived in tents and on the ground during the exercise, learning how to take care of themselves and their weapons in a field setting.
The exercise not only was to certify the command and control capabilities of the division, but it also was the last training event for 2nd Brigade Combat Team before its Joint Readiness Training Center rotation at Fort Polk, Louisiana, in the next few months. Soldiers trained in the field at the brigade and battalion levels in recent months.
Marne Focus also conducted joint training with the U.S. Air Force, using joint terminal attack controllers to coordinate air and ground assets to strike a target.
The exercise officially started June 20, when soldiers shot a Hellfire missile with the help of a drone, a first in the United States.
“Fort Stewart, Georgia, is a great place to train,” said Col. John Kline, commander of 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. “And here recently, we just did the first remote Hellfire shot using a Gray Eagle drone to designate a target with a laser and then have Apaches (helicopters) come up with Hellfire missiles and engage targets here in the impact area behind me here. That’s a first, I think, of any home station within the continental United States.”
Around June 26, the brigade conducted a joint forcible entry into the training area, similar to what they will have to do at JRTC. From there, they conducted a number of exercises including infantry maneuver lanes.
JRTC is designed to push the brigade to their limit.
“Eighteen days is an adequate amount of time in order to stress the system,” said Lt. Colonel Scott Shaw, commander of 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
On Tuesday, the Joint Air Attack Team exercise, which used Army and Air Force assets to fire on a target simultaneously, took place in an artillery impact zone where JTACs and observers watched from a nearby cliff.
“What we’re doing is we’re incorporating A-10s from the Air Force, we’re incorporating our own artillery, and then we’re going to have five Apaches out here as well. And what’s key about today’s event is they’re all going to be able to shoot simultaneously,” Kline said.
Firing on a target simultaneously is important because it doesn’t allow the target to escape between one element firing and the next waiting for permission to fire.
The exercise opened with a number of artillery impacts and apaches firing on the target. However, halfway through the exercise, there was a long lull between units firing.
“It took us a little while to get into the groove in terms of getting simultaneous,” Kline said during the exercise. The A-10s were held up with maintenance issues and it took a while for units to get permission to continue firing on the target while they waited for it to arrive.
Kline saw it all as a learning opportunity.
“I mean, this is good,” he said. “Again, it didn’t go exactly according to plan, and that’s a good news story. So now we have something we can say, ‘Hey, how do we get better with this thing.’”